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Changemakers: Segun Agbaje, Building A Great African Institution Through Digital Transformation

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By Steve Coomber

When is a bank not a bank? That is a question Segun Agbaje, the multiple award-winning CEO and Managing Director of Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) has been getting to grips with as he forges a new path for banking in Africa.

Agbaje was always destined to become a banker, it seems, although he took a circuitous route. Initially, he qualified as an accountant and practised in the US before tiring of auditing and returning to Nigeria to follow his father’s footsteps into banking. There, in 1991, he joined an exciting new venture, the Guaranty Trust Bank, founded by a group of young Nigerians the previous year.

As he worked his way up through positions of increasing responsibility, several events in which Agbaje played a leading role shaped his thinking about GTBank’s future: the initial public offering in 2004, listing on the Lagos stock exchange; entering the international capital markets with a Eurobond issue and listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2007.

“Those transactions exposed me to the international financial markets and the people who worked in them – merchant banks, investment bankers, lawyers, investors,” he says. “It gave me a better understanding of what people wanted from a first-class bank and best-in-class practices. It also encouraged me to think about the bank as an international institution, rather than just a Nigerian institution, and what it took to compete in the global economy.”

Agbaje became CEO of GTBank in 2011 and won the coveted African Banker of the Year award the next year. The award recognises financial industry leaders throughout Africa who have exercised “good vision and leadership” in guiding their organisation to strong financial performance, as well as having contributed to the impact of Africa’s financial services industry internationally.

During his tenure as CEO, the bank and Agbaje have won numerous awards. What is particularly interesting is the trend in types of award since GTBank has been under Agbaje’s leadership. Awards for financial performance have been joined by Innovative Bank awards, Best Mobile Banking and Mobile Money awards, Best Digital Bank awards and, most recently, Digital Wallet of the Year award.


‘I’m not sure that, if we removed the word “bank” in five years, we would be losing anything. We might actually even be gaining something’
This trend reflects Agbaje’s pioneering attitude towards digital transformation and the role of banking. Traditional bankers might think his view of the bank’s future a radical departure from mainstream banking, but for Agbaje it is change that has to happen: “Banks are going to become platforms, so we will become a trusted single, integrated platform,” he says. “Because the competition for banks has changed, where it was once other banks, now it is fintechs, telcos, Apple Pay, PayPal, payday-loan companies, salary-advance companies, even coffee shops. Any bank that stays with the traditional banking model is going to get smaller and smaller. All these other companies will be taking part of your share of business.”

If some of the digital giants, like Google and Apple, start to develop banking services, the word ‘bank’ could soon be associated with inefficiency and a lack of innovation, he adds. “I’m not sure that, if we removed the word ‘bank’ in five years, we would be losing anything. We might actually even be gaining something.”

While there may be a lot of disruption in the banking sector, Agbaje has a head start on many traditional banks. For example, the bank launched its Habari mobile platform in November 2018: “What we’re trying to create is something where, when you come to the bank, however you do that, you are not just coming to pay and receive,” he says. “You can come into our ecosystem and do just about everything – pay for tickets, book holidays, stream music, buy online, watch videos, and then, because we are a bank, we can provide the payment engine.”

The reputation of bankers and banking took a knock following the global financial crisis and Agbaje is well aware of the challenge banks face in terms of their relationship with the societies they serve. “A banking licence is a privilege, given to you by the regulator. Banks owe a social responsibility to the communities within which they operate,” he says. “Just as we monitor profits, costs and return on equity, we must also monitor how much we give back in terms of social responsibility.”

This is not just talk. The bank interacts with the community in many ways, from football education programmes and tournaments to its internationally renowned annual conference on autism (now in its ninth year); from its You Read Initiative aimed at promoting a culture of reading to the Social Impact Challenge designed to unearth ideas that can enrich the lives of local communities.

Many of the bank’s CSR initiatives are aimed at community development, promoting entrepreneurs and small businesses. For example, there is the GTCrea8 Convention aimed at helping undergraduates “build successful businesses out of their passion”. The bank is also building shared service facilities for businesses in the food and fashion sectors, so that these small businesses can benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by large companies without the overheads.

The initiatives reflect Agbaje’s passionate belief in Africa’s economic potential: “It is a continent that I am completely bullish about, because I don’t think there are many places in the world that have both the natural resources, the human population, the distribution of millennials; who are just incredible people. If you are able to tap into and unleash that human capital potential it is a continent that has a huge growth upside,” he says.

“What we have in Africa is a leadership problem. There are pockets, organisations, where the leadership is good. Those organisations function the way you would in a developed economy. If you start to get people with a track record of achievement running things – whether that is in countries, governments, parastatals – they will bring that excellence and achievement to government and Africa will start to change.”

He is just the leadership role model that the younger generation needs. “My values are simple ones. I believe in hard work, humility, integrity, discipline. Those are the things that drive me,” he says. “If you have those values, show them, inculcate them into all the decisions that you make and you will be fine.”

He has naturally given some thought to what he might do after his time at GTBank: “Maybe I will get another platform to do something in the private sector. It could be in a completely different sector to banking. My first choice would be an Africa-focused organisation. A second option would be something, if not solely focused on Africa, with an emerging market emphasis.”

He would also be interested, he says, in mentoring young people with small businesses; helping them to think about organisational structure and governance, for example.

But for now, with two-and-a-half years left on his contract, he is fully focused on the transformation underway at GTBank. “I’m not finished,” he says. “We are trying to build a great African institution; putting the bank in the position I think it should be in – not just financially, but socially, being a well-run enterprise.”

Agbaje is not someone to trumpet his achievements, but if his vision for the future of one of Africa’s largest and most important banks comes to fruition, more plaudits are likely to be heading his way.

Agbaje on leadership:
“My role is first to set the tone, to talk
the talk. When we set a vision, goals,
objectives, values, I have to be seen to
live and walk those.”

“I like to be involved in a lot of the key
decision-making. So it is a balance: being
really handson, so that I know what is
going on, while also giving people a large
degree of autonomy, because the number
of people reporting to me means that I
cannot micro-manage them – I rely on
their abilities.”

“I believe in a flat organisational structure.
I don’t believe in creating silos. I would
rather have a squad as opposed to a team,
which means I probably have more direct
reports than most CEOs.”

BIG STORY

War In Aso Rock! NSA Monguno Battles Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari Over National Security Coordination

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There is an ongoing battle for supremacy between the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) and the Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari.

A circular from the Office of the NSA, which became public on Monday, accused the CoS of hijacking the coordination of security leadership of the country, a role legally assigned to his office.

This has created confusion, lack of leadership and outright sidelining of Monguno in the scheme of things when it comes to the strategic decisions in national security operations.

PRNigeria reports that Kyari, contrary to protocols, convenes and chairs meetings with heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies with their supervising Ministers in attendance.

The NSA, in a circular dated December 9, 2019, entitled: ‘Disruption of National Framework by Unwarranted Meddlesomeness,’ accused Kyari of usurping his powers and those of President Buhari.

Monguno, in the circular copied to Kyari, all Service, Intelligence and Security Chiefs, the Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Police Affairs, accused Kyari of authoring two circulars on September 13 and November 26, 2019, respectively, with contents and directives which were at variance with Buhari’s orders.

He noted that what Kyari is doing is an aberration as he is not in any position to preside over national security meetings nor competent enough to determine and manage the nation’s security architecture and trajectory.

Monguno warned Kyari to stop issuing orders on security matters and directed the complacent security and Intelligence Chiefs as well as the Ministers to follow the established line of authority in national security coordination by the President through the NSA.

Part of the letter read: “References A and B were sent in response to the request for Presidential intervention to sustain Internal Security operations of the police within the shortest possible time. However, the contents of the 2 references were in variance with Mr President’s verbal, directives. Consequently, ONSA scrutinized the documents further and sought clarification from Mr President who has directed that Reference B be disregarded by all parties as it was sent without his endorsement.

“While it is expected that all Heads of Security agencies, having spent many years in service would understand the means of passing directives from the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, it may be necessary to remind all, in the face of glaring breaches to that procedure. For clarification, other than direct verbal directives from the President, written directives ’emanating from Mr President would be conveyed with a copy of his manuscript directive or at minimum, bear his signature.

“Additionally, Mr President may convey directives to the Heads of defence and security apparatus through the NSA who Intelligence Community Committee, Joint Intelligence Board and General Security Appraisal Committee on behalf of the President and supervising Ministers of defence and security agencies. It should be noted that the Chief of Staff to the President does not direct the security apparatus of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his job as it relates to security stops at conveying Mr. President’s written directives.

“Similarly, you are reminded that the Chief of Staff to the President is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn in an oath of defending the country. As such, unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with Service Chiefs and Heads of security organisations as well as Ambassadors and High Commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising Ministers are a violation of the constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr President. Such acts and continuous meddlesomeness by the Chief of Staff have not only ruptured our security and defence efforts but have slowed down any meaningful gain that Mr President has sought to achieve.

“As professionals, you are aware that the security of the Federal Republic of Nigeria requires concerted and centralized effort taking into account internal, external and diplomatic factors. It is therefore detrimental to our collective security that the Chief of Staff who is an on-supervising minister holds meetings with diplomats, security Chiefs and heads of agencies.

“Pursuant to the foregoing, you are by this letter directed to desist from these illegal acts that serve nothing but the continuous undermining of our national security framework. Any breach of this directive will attract the displeasure of Mr President”, it noted.

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Satanic Agents After Me, They Want To Pull Me Down —- Fr. Mbaka Speaks On Viral Bayelsa Prophecy

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Charismatic Enugu Catholic Priest, the Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, on Monday, disowned a viral controversial prophecy on the Bayelsa State governorship contest.

The social media was busy, weekend, with reports claiming that Mbaka had prophesied that the current Governor, Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, would not last beyond two weeks in office.

In the said prophecy, he was quoted as saying that another person from a different political party, not the APC, would mount the saddle.

However, the cleric has now come out to disclaim the prophecy, attributing it to people who would want to pull him down at all costs.

This was contained in a statement sent to journalists by Ike Maximus Ugwuoke, the Media Chief, Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria.

It read; “Our attention has been drawn to report in a section of the media that spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Fr. Mbaka has prophesied that the newly sworn-in Governor of Bayelsa State, Diri Douye will stay in office as Governor for only two months. The report alleged that he predicted this in ‘Delta state at the ceremony to mark the birthday of his friend and colleague who clocked 68 years’.

“For the sake of justice and fairness, we challenge the originators of this false and mendacious report to mention the name of the so-called Fr Mbaka’s friend and colleague whose ceremony he attended in Delta State.

“The truth is that Fr Mbaka has not even been in Delta since this year. Fr Mbaka has never at any time, place or circumstance made any prophecy about Bayelsa or who becomes the Governor of the state or his duration in office. The report is obviously the handwork of mischief makers and wicked idiots who are on demonic and satanic assignment to damage Fr Mbaka’s reputation and brand him a false prophet.

“Fr Mbaka has been preoccupied with the charitable and miraculous works God has been using him to do in the ministry. He has been immersed in thanksgiving to God for the fulfillment of his prophecy on Hope Uzodinma becoming the Governor of Imo State and so he never attended any such ceremony in Delta State or anywhere else where he could have made such prediction as alleged by these satanic agents. During Fr Mbaka’s Sunday mass today, he refuted this report himself publicly at the altar.

“Those who impersonate Fr Mbaka on the media should be careful, else they are attracting the wrath of God upon themselves.”

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Royal Disgrace! Oluwo Of Iwo Beats Up Fellow Monarch In Public, Osun Oba’s Call For His Suspension

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Some monarchs in the Osun West Senatorial district have called for the suspension of the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, shortly after he beat up another traditional ruler, the Agbowu of Ogbagba, Oba Dhikrulahi Akinropo, during a peace meeting for monarchs in Iwo, Ayedire, and Ola-Oluwa Local Government Areas of the state.

The Oluwo, on Friday, dealt a blow on the Agbowu, whose domain falls under the Ola-Oluwa council area, claiming he interrupted him during his speech by calling him a mad man.

The peace meeting, which was convened at the instance of the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Zone 11 was meant to broker peace among the monarchs in the three council areas that had been enmeshed in a land tussle for more than three months.

While the Oluwo advocated for the leasehold of land, instead of outright sales for developmental projects in the area, the other monarchs insisted that their land belongs to them and they reserve the right to sell them or not.

The state government intervened at a stage but the latest intervention by the police through the office of the AIG Zone 11 suffered a twist when the Oluwo pounced on the Agbowu.

The incident was witnessed by the state’s Commissioner for Lands and Physical Planning, his counterpart, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, the AIG for Zone 11, and about seven monarchs, including the Onigege of Igege, the Olu of Ile-Ogbo.

Narrating the incident to journalists at the State Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo, where he was accompanied by six monarchs to receive medical treatment, the Agbowu said the Oluwo punched him for telling him that he did not sell any land in his domain but his own land.

The monarch was rushed to Asubiaro Hospital after the incident by other monarchs at the meeting. The monarchs at the hospital were the Onigege of Igege, Oba Kazeem Oyediran, Olu of Ileogbo, Oba Habeeb Adetoyese, Onifin of Ikonifin, Oba Solomon Ojo, Oluwo Oke of Iwo Oke, Oba Kadiri Adeoye and Onisara of Eesu, Oba Moshood Oparonla.

The Olu of Ileogbo, Oba Habeeb Adetoyese, who spoke on behalf of the monarchs, said, that they received an invite to a peacemaking meeting over an allegation that Oba Akanbi levelled against them.

He alleged that the Oluwo pounced on Oba Akinropo while he was making his speech at the peace meeting.

He said, “In October last year he wrote a petition against us to AIG Oyebade, that, we are threatening his life and we are selling his land. The AIG said he doesn’t want any issue in our regions, that we should solve it amicably among ourselves. The governor also gave us the same advice when we saw him on the matter

”The first peacemaking meeting that was organized for us at Iwo Local Government Secretariat, Oluwo disrupted the meeting, he came with thugs saying everybody should go to his domain.”

He said when the government realised that the meeting did not work, they organized another meeting. He said, ”Letter was sent to us for the invite and we all went for the program…when he (Oluwo) was talking, he alleged that, I, the monarch of Ile-Ogbo, was selling his lands and that, also, the Agbowo of Ogbaa Gbaa, the Onigege of Gege is also selling his land. I am selling only selling Ile Ogbo’s land and not Iwo land.

”In the meeting held the commissioner said if it is land he can’t intervene on any issue pertaining to land. He advised that the court can decide on that or that we meet the governor to sort things out.

”As the AIG was addressing us, the Oluwo started shouting that chaos and war will happen in the community. He stood up and started beating Agbowu. He beat him to the extent that it was the AIG that rescued the king from Oluwo. We are still in shock for a king to behave in that manner. When the man started feeling dizzy, we had to rush him down to Asubiaro hospital. He sustained an injury on his cheeks.

“We implore the government to suspend him (Oluwo) so that we can have peace in our domain. We have called our subjects that there is no cause for violence but he should be checked. Only the governor can caution him and if that is not done, he will destroy the entire region.”

Also, Babajide Siyanbola who is the legal adviser to Agbowo of Ogbaagbaa, said legal action will be taken on the matter.

Reacting to the allegation, the Oluwo in a statement, said that he was truly invited to make peace on his stance to curtail excessive land sales by monarchs under his domain, a pronouncement that did not go down well with those affected as they regrouped to act against his authority as the Oluwo who gave them the crown.

He said, “At the peace meeting held at AIG office, Agbowu of Ogbaagbaa interrupted me while making I am making my speech and started calling me unprintable names, pointing his staff of office at me while attempt to stick the staff in my eyes; I heavily rejected it with a force which the Agbowu could not withstand.

”How could a constable openly insult commissioner of police and make an attempt to beat the CP? Can any monarch try such with Ooni, Alaafin?” he said.

The Nation

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